Monday, July 12, 2010

I second this ...

... This is Not a Book Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It is still beyond any reasonable doubt that the age of the newspaper, at the very least, is over. Requiescat in pace, but do not weep. Wasteful, relatively expensive, and ultimately ephemeral, there is nothing that a newspaper provides in print that cannot be provided exactly as well online. (Except perhaps the deplorable registration of their high-speed print processes.) And those at the helm are not ignorant of this. Some new business paradigm will be required to successfully meet the demands of a generation that scoffs at now-quaint constraints of old print media: word count, production costs, and distribution.

This is an important piece. It gets to the heart of the matter and draws the proper distinctions. Do read the whole thing.


  1. Hi Frank,

    I've got to break this comment into 2 parts. There's a max of 4,096 characters.

    I read the Lowell Sun at work today, which is most often how I read the local paper, not online--yes, this coming from a guy who reads a zillion articles on poetry each week in online versions of papers around the world wide web. But the local "paper", there are sections to it that can be handed to others while reading another, and the whole thing can be handed off to someone else after being finished. In fact, it is okay to ask, "You done with that section?", which means there is demand for a paper newspaper. When people stop asking that question, we will know that the end of the paper paper is nigh.

    Today in the news was the story of the Barefoot Bandit being apprehended in bare feet no less. It's not earth-shattering news, but we can talk about it. There's a sociological debate and psychological depth in there, but that still is not why he is news. The hooligan crashed a plane he stole into the tropics in order to get away, but got apprehended instead. It's an entertaining movie brought to us in real life form.

    Before addressing more of the value of newspaper, the bells and whistles of it, the sizzle it brings versus the steak, let's look at what has been really been lost. I live here in the outskirts of Lowell. If we did not have modern media, I would love that the Lowell Sun would speed the news off the press, ship it out quickly by van to my neighborhood, where it would be dropped at a corner, where a school kid would pick it up, and deliver it with the news of the Barefoot Bandit in the Bahamas right to my very doorstep. What a remarkable feat that is, except for one thing--not only is TV faster now, but the internet is faster. I am well aware that I may be able to get news of the Barefoot Bandit in the Bahamas before anyone at the Lowell Sun knows about it.

    (cont . . .)

  2. (. . . cont.)

    When I was a kid, my grandfather used to get up at 4:00AM. In the mornings, when we would sleep over, we would find him in his dining room, with the paper on the table. There must be others still out there like him. But we kids, depending on our ages, would find the jumble, the crossword, the comics, and so forth. The morning paper was a social event. When I think of Ted Kooser's weekly column, free to all papers, I think of people finding it like they do the jumble, and sharing it.

    When I look for John Timpane's articles, or Bryan Appleyard's, isn't that social side of the paper still there? It may not be by John's recommendation that I buy a book. It may be because he sparked a conversation between us that he knows nothing about. In the article you link to, Pritchard talks about the "lyrical sensibility" of what he finds from an online reviewer. But I cannot now remember that reviewer's name. So even though there is this lyric sensibility, there is no conversation. The conversation gets sparked when I go buy the book, come across the poem, and then say either, "No, no, no, that's not the most salient point in the poet's enjambment, it's such-and-so," that or, "Nice, I am sure glad to have read that review, seeing so much more in the poems than I would have." (Okay. I just went back and checked, and Pritchard was quoting "Adam Golaski's essay on the poet Paul Hannigan."

    The importance of the paper newspaper is in leading the conversations within the local community. But it must at all times remember to sell the sizzle. Steven Nessen of the Lowell Sun has been telling me that he may be able to get the article on my son Sam's graduation cast into some laminated form. I cannot get that online. There may be people who read the Philadelphia Inquirer for the insightful angles and illuminations that come from such writers as John Timpane. But there will be just as many looking to pull out the flyers and coupons.

    It's like in car sales, the important part is that it gets you from here to there safely. But if it is no fun to drive, if there aren't enough cupholders for some, if it's not sexy-looking enough for others, less and less will buy such a model. It will become an Edsel.

  3. I take no pleasure in the demise of the newspaper, and I believe it is still preventable. But it will not be prevented as long as the people running newsrooms are preoccupied with nostalgia over their glory days and think that the principal thing readers look forward to has to do with politics and government. I am not saying politics and government should not be covered -- of course they should -- but they should be covered as if they were be-all and end-all of everyone's life.

  4. Hi Frank,

    I agree. Also, within the car analogy, no matter what you think drives the car, stripping out other things does not make it more attractive, so does not make it more profitable. It becomes a stripped, unattractive version of what formerly was loved.

    There is also a lesson from the sports section, which drives so many sales. First, it is other than the sacred politics and government. Yet, taking it out would be one of the ways to sink a paper. But secondly, the paper is not what informs sports fans of whether their team has won or how they did. Yet, people want to get the paper to read the points of view, to enhance conversation.